From OKEY SAMPSON, Aba
THE day Towechi Iwueze was murdered in 2012 has remained a black day in the mind of her husband, Iweka Ejike Nmezi Iwueze, a banker in Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State.
When the incident happened, the finger erroneously pointed at him, leading to his arrest and detention by the police. But after thorough investigation, Iwueze was not found culpable and consequently let off the hook.
However, in order to clear his name, and more importantly, to avenge the death of his wife, the banker vowed to find the killer. It was a task that took three years to accomplished, one in which providence played a major role.
Back in 2012, when the unfortunate incident first happened, the story was reported by The Sun and the reporter naturally moved on to other assignments, until he was woken up one morning in the month of December last year by a caller who gave his name simply as Iwueze and this brief chat ensued.
“How can I help you this morning?” the reporter asked. The caller responded: “This is not what we will discuss on phone; I need to see you in person to be able to explain why I called.”
An appointment was agreed upon, but due to exigencies of duties on both sides, the meeting was put off severally until one day, Iweze visited the Aba office of The Sun, and narrated how his wife was killed by the manager of his sachet water business, and how, after three years search for the fleeing alleged murderer by security agents, he effortlessly ‘arrested’ the suspect.
Genesis of the infamy
Some years ago, Iwueze who hails from Mbano in Imo State, set up a sachet water packaging business in his house at Umuchichi area of Aba to keep his wife who had resigned from a busy bank job engaged. For the effective running of the business, he employed some people including, Chimezie Chukwunyere, as a manager.
The business progressed with his wife as the chief executive. But one evening in 2012, the devil struck. While Iwueze was at work, someone scaled the barrier fence of his house and strangled his wife to death in the presence of his children. As the police would say, when a crime is committed in any vicinity, everybody within becomes a suspect. Instantly, Iwueze, despite that he was not around when the incident took place became a suspect and was arrested.
He continues the tale: “After the incident, I was the one that reported the matter to the police, and when we got to the police station, my in-laws twisted the matter. The last I remembered was that they went into the District Police Officer, DPO’s office, and when the DPO came out again, I didn’t know what transpired between them and the DPO, but the man changed sides and ordered that I be arrested. I turned from hunter to the hunted. I was arrested and sent to Umuahia, to the headquarters of the State Criminal Investigation Department. Even before then, my daughter who was questioned by the police said that Chimezie (the factory manager) was fighting with her mother that night and they asked her where her father was, she said her father had not come back from work.
“When some people particularly my in-laws insisted on my involvement, the police came up with the theory that one cannot be in two places at a time because the CCTV in my office stated that I left the office by 10.39pm on that day, not only by myself but with three other bankers who had given their statements already. My colleagues, Luke, Emmanuel Agbamuche and Adeyemi, they gave their statements, stating that they were with me till 10.30pm on the day of the incident. The people, who were at the places I slept, also gave accounts in my favour.
“But my in-laws painted not so palatable picture of me, which was why the police detained me and the media reported it. When I was eventually released after weeks of detention, I was contacted by The Sun and I recounted my own version of the story, which was also published. We started making efforts because by the findings of the report and the other legal proceedings by the Director of Public Prosecutions, the police exonerated me, and indicted two major suspects. One was Justice Nwoke and the other person was Chimezie Chukwunyere. Justice was apprehended and was locked up with me at the same time because he could not prove where he was on the night of the incident. He is still being held at the Afara Prison, Umuahia.”
Iwueze told Sunday Sun reporter that he made extensive efforts to ascertain from Nwoke about his involvement in the matter and he maintained that he had no hand in it and knew nothing about it. Though police report pointed to Chukwunyere being a suspect in the murder, Iwueze held the conviction that Chukwunyere killed his wife because the suspect had her BlackBerry phone. Again, in the night of the incident, people around saw him jumping out of Iwueze’s compound.
He said something revealing happened after the incident: “But a week after the incident, the young man (suspect) was then inviting my friends that were on my wife’s phone contact list on her BlackBerry messenger. Those people called me asking how my dead wife could be inviting them for a chat. I asked them to accept the chat and let me know who was using the display picture. A couple of them accepted the chat and sent me his display picture and that display picture showed he was the person in question and the man we were looking for. He did not know that by switching off the SIM card does not mean that the phone has stopped functioning, that people have the IMEI number, the chat number and BBN number. It was the BBN number that people used to recognize him.
“Based on this, I made a report to the DSS and they started investigating. At a point, they asked for the SIM card of my wife’s phone, the IMEI number or so. We went to the police, got a clearance and went to MTN to track the number. But when the number was provided they said that as far as the person has switched SIM card that it was not possible unless we can get the UAB of that SIM card, of course the person was at large and that frustrated that effort.”
Like Chinua Achebe said in one of his works, ‘Whoever the gods want to kill, they first made mad,’ Chimezie became obsessed with chatting with his alleged victim’s friends as enunciated. “Incidentally, the man (suspect) also called one of my friends, a lady who was also my late wife’s friend. She told me that the same man was inviting her, I said okay, play along and see if we could through that get him arrested. They started chatting and the suspect, Chuwkunyere told her that he wanted to marry her. I also urged her to play along if we could use that to trap him. The girl works in an oil company, so they agreed to meet in Owerri during one of the public holidays of that year.”
Manhunt for suspect
The manhunt for Chukwunyere then began in earnest as Iwueze told Sunday Sun: “With the information, we positioned some security agents around Owerri airport where they were supposed to meet. But as things turned out, a day before the day they were to meet in Owerri, my in-laws arrested somebody that the young man knew and based on that, he told the girl coming in from Lagos to Owerri airport, where soldiers were waiting, that he would not see her again, that he didn’t even trust her again, and that he was suspecting she wanted to indict him. Based on that, the guy ran off and the soldiers came back.”
The manhunt was intensified. Two months after the failed attempt at Owerri, the DSS reportedly tracked the suspect to Enugu and soldiers were contacted to get him arrested. Chimezie played a smart one as he was said to have run away on sighting the soldiers.
“We have been tracing him and money has been spent ceaselessly to get the suspect arrested to not only avenge my wife’s death but also tell the world I had no hand in her death. We’ve gone to churches, we’ve gone to DSS, we’ve gone to police; we even went to his village, Isu Njaba, Imo State where he told us he was from and asked people to report to the neares police station if they see him. We volunteered to offer a generous reward to the informant. Again when we got information that he hailed from Ehime Mbano and not Isu Njaba, we also went to that place to trace him, all these things did not yield any result.” people to report to the nearest
God’s hand of mercy
After three years of intensive search for Chukwunyere, God in His infinite mercy benevolently came up with an enduring miracle and the prime suspect was arrested late last year in an effortless manner akin to how the kite picks up a chick during the dry season. How did this wonder reminiscent of the Igbo axiom of man climbing an Iroko tree with bare hands, happen?
Here is Iwueze’s answer: “On December 8 last year, luckily, I was waiting for somebody at Onions market within the Timber Market area in Uratta, Aba, when the young man (suspect) we have been looking for in the past three years strolled past me. He was going towards Timber Market while I was standing at the junction of the Onions Market, waiting for someone. I was just waiting aimlessly when I saw him stroll past me and I said to myself whether it was true this could be the young man. I allowed him walk pass because I knew if I had pounced on him immediately, I was going to kill him. I had to watch him as he trekked down.
“So I trailed him for about 15 minutes while trying hard to remain and maintain my sanity. Eventually, when he got to where people were, I knew even if I wanted to misbehave, people will stop me. It was then I caught him. When he saw me, he was shocked. I started beating him and people held me as I predicted and when people asked me the reason of my beating him, I told them he killed my wife three years ago and ran away. But he denied knowing me or committing the offence.
“A man who was in the crowd said it was not true the suspect killed my wife. I told them that I don’t look like a tout, that I work in a bank and that if I didn’t know what I was saying at my age, then something was wrong with me. The man insisted that the guy did not kill my wife, and I told him that one day, he would be in my position and someone will also kill his wife and when he is caught, someone will also ask him to show prove. After saying this, the people that gathered said the best thing would be to take us to the chairman of the market association to handle the matter.
“When we got to the chairman’s office, he said he had lost his own wife that he won’t even ask me what happened, and when he asked the boy if he heard what I said, he answered that he didn’t know me neither did he know what I’m talking about. With the denial by the suspect, the chair
Suspect’s self confession
With the invitation of the police, things took a different turn as Chukwunyere reportedly admitted to the crime. Hear Iwueze: “The police came and took us to the police station and at the station, they asked us what happened. As I was about to state what happened, the boy said he should be allowed to say something first. The police tried to shut him up insisting that as the complainant I should speak first. After the suspect insisted he should speak first, the police allowed him. He told the police he will like to start by apologizing to me, that he denied in the market that he didn’t know me, so that people would not mob him there. He confessed that he was the one that killed my wife. On saying this, the investigating Police Officer (IPO) asked him to stop, that he didn’t understand what the young man was saying and went to the Station Officer, SO, and asked him to come and listen to what the suspect was saying. When the SO asked him, he said he killed the woman and when asked how he managed to kill her, he said he strangled her with sponge. When asked how he gained entry into the house, he said he jumped the fence. When the police asked him why he did that, whether he wanted to befriend or rape her and she refused, he said no, that the previous day he came to work, that my wife shouted on him and when he went home, he became angry and the evil spirit that controls him, told him to kill her. He further said he was fighting with the evil spirit, but it did not work, that the evil spirit over powered him and that was why he killed my wife. That he was ready to face the consequences and that he was confessing so that the woman’s spirit will stop disturbing him that it has been disturbing him since the past three years he killed her. He said ever since, he has not had peace. Nothing has been moving for him, that anything they want to do to him, let them do, that he was prepared to die.”
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the Abia State Police Command, DSP Ezekiel Onyeke confirmed the incident and the arrest. He said having made self confession, the police had no option than to arraign the suspect.